Documenting The Journey Of A Man On A Quest For Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Month: August 2022

On Sabbatical – Week 9: Making The Effort To Connect With My Bros

Wind Down Time

The week at the cabin definitely threw off our sleep routine. It’s hard to get kids to go to bed before sunset, especially in a new place where most of your time is spent outdoors. There’s a connection to the natural cycle of the day that is hard to break, no matter how many blackout curtains you use.

After the first night back home, we quickly realized a change was needed. Bedtime did not go well; the kids were not ready for bed at the time that we were ready for them to be ready for bed. So, during dinner the next night, we came up with “Wind Down Time,” and began discussing how that might look. The idea was that we’d get ready for bed and then the kids could stay up late, so long as they kept to themselves and played quietly while the adults read, talked, or did some similarly boring activity. Dessert is the one time we can virtually guarantee the kids will be sitting still, and they were having ice cream, so we broached the topic then. To the one, we asked if they wanted to try Wind Down Time tonight, and they said, “Yes.” We looked to the other, asked the same thing, and they said, “I like to lick bowls.”

I guess during ice cream maybe isn’t the best time to capture a child’s undivided attention after all.

Beach Volleyball Brings Me Joy, No Matter My Age

I was lucky enough to get out in the sand for back to back beach volleyball days this week. And not just any sand, but the sand in the choicest volleyball courts in the Twin Cities – the courts at Bde Maka Ska. In my 20’s I had lived walking distance from these courts, and it was here that I transitioned from primarily playing indoor volleyball (which I’d done since age 15) to the beach. So, it was very rewarding to be back on my old stomping grounds.

Of course, these days my off-court setup does look a little different than it used to. The only way I could make the time to play one of these days is if I brought the kids with me. It took some extra preparation, but it was well worth it. Packing a cooler full of snacks and a wagon full of toys is a small price to pay to have your own personal cheering section with you wherever you go!

A little extra gear for an afternoon of volleyball

As more people showed up to play, I realized I was, for perhaps the first time in my life, the oldest guy at the courts. There were bunches of in-shape twenty-something’s playing on the courts next to us. When my friends and I finished our matches and were packing up our balls and lines, one particularly shredded dude came up to me and asked me how long I’d been playing volleyball. I surprised myself when I did the math and replied, “22 years.” The look on his face was priceless! He replied, “What, you started when you were 7 or sumthin’?” No, son. I’m old. “You don’t look old. You don’t play like you’re old.”

You hear that, world? This old man’s still got it, even with kids in tow!

CREATING SPACE FOR HONEST CONVERSATION ON A PONTOON FULL OF DUDES

One day this week, I joined my neighbor and his friends for an evening on a pontoon boat on Medicine Lake in Plymouth, MN. There’s one guy in this crew that I particularly enjoy, because he doesn’t shy away from conversations about real, important things in life and not just surface-level discussions about football or farts. And so I was talking to this guy about parenting, about what it’s like raising kids today, about goal-setting, and about dealing with all the challenges of trying to be a good dad, have a healthy relationship with your partner, and also trying to live your own life. He shared personal, sometimes painful details of his life, and I held space for the pain, and then would gently offer a follow up question to unpack it further. Toward the end of the discussion, he pulled a right turn and asked me, “Do you go to therapy? You’re using a lot of therapy speak.”

What’s most interesting to me about this comment is not that I do not go to therapy, but that I took his comment as a compliment. My initial reaction was a feeling of pride and gratitude for being secure enough with my own feelings that I was able to be a witness for someone else’s pain. It makes me wonder what I could do if I wasn’t a few pale ales deep on a pontoon full of dudes. I also realize that healing can happen anywhere, so long as I create the space for it.

BRO DAY

Maximum fun takes planning. Lucky for me, I’m a planner. For years I’ve dreamed of putting together a day of outdoor games with my closest bros. This week, I finally made it happen. The idea stems from my father’s long-standing tradition of a Decathlon in the woods with his friends; he and his friends from school have, for the most part, kept this effort going over the span of several decades. I got to partake in that tradition one year when I was in college, and have since wanted to make that happen with my own circle.

It was a special thing, getting eight adult men, many with wives and kids, in the same place with the entire day open. We made the most of our freedom.

Of all the things we could have done (paying greens fees to golf on a pesticide-ridden landscape, paying admission for high-speed, fossil-fuel-burning go karts…), I set up the day to be at a park. Just eight dudes, some yard games, a few coolers, a couple balls, a speaker, and the great outdoors. That’s all we needed to have an epic day and create some memories that’ll last a lifetime. That’s what I’m most proud of with organizing this Bro Day – it’s not all the planning and coordinating that went into it, it’s that what we chose to do with our time was low cost, had minimal environmental impact, and fostered maximum fun.

Special thanks to all the ladies in our lives for enabling this epic day of good times to happen. Shoutout to Bronson Broer for making the bro-iest of Bro Day trophies!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the winner. Congratulations to my good friend Brian Dexter on being the ultimate bro in 2022!

Bro Day 2022

Dex with the Bro Day trophy. Me half-pretending to be salty with a 2nd place finish.

On Sabbatical – Week 8: A Vacation That Was No Longer An Escape From Life, But An Invitation To Live

You know how getting ready for a trip with kids can have its stressful elements? How, between you and (hopefully) a co-parent, you have to not only pack for yourself, but for your kids, and how kids need way more stuff than just clothes and a toothbrush? And how both co-parents probably have their own packing lists with some bits of overlap but neither list catches all the things? And how, while you’re trying to find, organize, and pack all of these additional toys, stuffies, nightlights, and various other “essential” items, the kids you are so strenuously working for are literally climbing on your back throughout the process? Well, for our annual Moravetz clan cabin week on Mille Lacs Lake this year, the vacation prep was anything but stressful.

In fact, we had the most relaxed, laid back vacation prep ever. No stress. No partner squabbles. Children that allowed us to insert items into a duffel bag one and only one time, never once removing said items to “play with one last time.” When one adult was feeling the urge to tackle a list, the other naturally gravitated toward giving the children attention. When one adult needed a break, the other danced in step to change positions. Everything just flowed.

Of course, having the relief of removing “normal jobs” from the equation helped in this matter, with some extra hours available during the days prior to departure. I also attribute the ease of our cabin week prep to a few things. For one, our kids getting older, which for us is equating to less overall gear needed (no diapers nor bottles, woop!). Also, we’ve made this trek a few years running now, so there was a little less mystery of what contingencies we may or may not need to plan for. But the big thing that stood out to me was the communication between Kristyn and I. We have been practicing focusing on advocating for our own needs and having better control of our breath, tone, and nonverbal cues. We avoided any potential stress spirals by simply doing what felt right and being calmly receptive to any inputs from the other. Easier said that done, to be sure. But with practice… possible.

Our children maturing also plays a big factor, not just with packing for a week at a cabin, but throughout our lives. It feels a lot like magic when your kids start gaining more independence. The feeling of “turning a corner” or a “paradigm shift” brings relief to me, that these young humans now know enough of the world that they can make their own way in many situations. For example, we don’t have to worry about what a kid will do if left unattended in our house for a few minutes. Sure, they might quickly grab a rogue mandarin off the counter and surreptitiously scarf it down, but they’re not going to choke to death – they have teeth now, and they know how to use ’em. It’s also highly likely in this hypothetical scenario that the child will also dispose of their orange peel evidence in the compost, concealing any damning shred of proof of citrus consumption while simultaneously assisting in the natural decomposition of said rind. #winning

My big takeaway from the actual week at the cabin is – I noticed a difference in me compared to family cabin weeks from previous years. In the years where this trip was a break from work, where I was using hard-earned PTO days to “buy the time,” and choosing to spend my PTO time in this way, I brought an energy with me of – I have to make the most of this week. Note the words “have to.” No good vacation includes the words “have to.” It creates an arbitrary attachment to some set of expectations. This leads to potential disappointment. So, in years past, I “had to” do all the activities. I “had to” make sure I kayaked, and played yard games, and made campfires, and on and on. I “had to” find a way to have an afternoon away with Kristyn, because making time for date nights with kids and jobs is hard, and this was one of our rare chances to have other trusted adults staying under the same roof as us. I “had to” drink all the beer. I learned that I don’t actually enjoy six consecutive days of day-and-night drinking. After two days, I could feel my body saying, “What in the blazes are you doing drinking all this beer?” But my mind had this remnant muscle memory from previous years. I have to get my fill now while the getting’s good. I have to seize this opportunity to escape my normal life and really live a little! What rubbish I now realize that line of thinking was. This time around, I had no attachment to any particular activity, no “must have” for the week, and I wasn’t escaping anything from my normal life. It was just another pleasant week, with the added bonus of being around my lovely family. 

Looking ahead, my lesson from this is that I should aim to design my life in a way where I enjoy all of its components such that I don’t feel a desire to escape from any of it. Sabbatical may be coming to an end when I have confidence in a sustainable life design fitting that description. 

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